One minute may not seem like a long time to many North Carolina residents, but for some farm workers 60 seconds may be the difference between life and death. According to a recent report, within 60 seconds a worker can get swallowed up in flowing grain. More than 50 percent of the time grain engulfment results in a suffocating death. Thousands of agricultural workers are at risk of succumbing to these workplace injuries, whether they are senior citizens, veteran workers or teens.
With the launch of grain bin safety campaigns, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has attempted to raise awareness about ways to prevent entrapments and reduce worker injuries and fatalities. Though the number of accidents has decreased in recent times, the agricultural sector still has one of the highest fatality rates across all employment sectors.
With the number hitting a record high of 26 fatalities in 2010, OSHA launched an initiative to reduce the number of grain entrapment incidents by integrating enforcement, outreach, compliance and educational strategies. The agency sent warning letters to hundreds of companies asking them to comply with OSHA standards and launched state specific plans to combat specific grain bin dangers.
Keeping with tradition, this month at the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s National Farm Safety and Health week this month, OSHA focused on creating a safer working environment for agricultural workers and urged employers and employees alike to familiarize themselves with safety procedures that could save their lives.
Losing a loved one in a worker’s accident impacts not only the victim’s loved ones but also everyone else the victim came in contact with. When these deaths are preventable and occur due to an employer’s negligence, an injured worker or their loved ones may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim to not only recover compensation for medical expenses but also hold the company accountable for failing to follow safety regulations.
Source: United States Department of Labor, “You can die in a grain bin in less than 60 seconds,” Tom Bielema, Sept. 16, 2013